Michigan State won the Big Ten title on Sunday and started in the NCAA as No. 2 seed in the East against No. 15 seed Bradley on Thursday.
Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press
OF THE MONKS, Iowa – He first fought against himself. As Tom Izzo usually does. The raw emotion struggling with the politician.
He is like a hesitant shooter when a question comes in and he does not know if he will let his answer fly away. And so, the Michigan State coach bit his lip. He paused. He did everything to not open a vein.
His Spartans had just defeated Michigan in the Big Ten title game on Sunday night in Chicago and was in the process of handling his team's NCAA ranking.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo observes the drills as his team prepares their first NCAA tournament match against Bradley on Wednesday, March 20, 2019 at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, IA. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
A two seeds? In the same support against Duke?
From one side: damn.
On the other:
"Wherever they want me to play," he said, the politician winning in him for a moment. "… If you want me to play outside, I'll play outside. If they want me to play, it does not matter to me anymore. I will not worry about that. "
He was visibly irritated, even disrespected. But that would not do much good to his team. And the next morning, he did his best to close it, when he told reporters at his noon press conference in East Lansing that he was talking about it.
Still, he had a message for his team.
"Hey, we should probably have a better seed … but we have to give up," Izzo told his players, according to his assistant coach, Mike Garland.
And that was it. He did not want the players to linger. He wanted them to focus on Bradley, as the Spartans play Thursday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center in Des Moines.
Izzo knows what happens when his team is not blocked. He saw it last year against Syracuse. He knows what happens when he does not look too. Once again: Syracuse.
Xavier Tillman, for one, was grateful for Izzo's message earlier this week about seeding and placing the MSU hooks. The second-year center said he and the players had talked to each other. That they were confused. They wondered how the committee could do what it did after the Spartans won the Big Ten tournament.
"I enjoyed that because we are following in their footsteps," said Tillman. "If the coaches were down and negative, we would be down. It's like that. We look up to the coaches. They did a good job putting on a brave face. "
[ Xavier Tillman’s rise at Michigan State starts with his daughter ]
"They were like," Hey, we had a bad situation, and we had a bad situation all year with injuries, but we'll be fine, everything will be fine. As we have always been. "
Moreover, if this team is honest with itself, the parenthesis is not as bad as it seems. Yeah, Duke is outside. But they are still there. And probably would have been in a Final Four.
The Braves are the 15 weakest seeds. They struggled in a mediocre conference before miraculously winning the conference tournament.
[ Bradley has blueprint to beat Michigan State: ‘They play … like us’ ]
After Bradley, MSU gets Louisville or Minnesota. Louisville defeated the Spartans in the fall, but MSU controlled the game late and ruined everything. Matt McQuaid was also missing from the Spartans.
In other words, neither team poses the same kind of difficult hurdle that Syracuse had made a year ago. And if MSU gets to Sweet 16, they could face a team that has upset people – Belmont or Yale – or a team they can handle – Maryland or LSU – which means that the path to the elite eight It's not as intimidating as it could be. be.
Now, MSU could obviously get angry. The Spartans are not a juggernaut. But they are also connected and focused and have an experienced team like Izzo's in recent years.
Which brings us to Duke, and the reason why so many people have responded to the seeding of MSU and put it in square brackets, including coaches and the team.
Yes, the Blue Devils are good. Yes, Izzo beat them once. Yes, they have Zion Williamson. Still, winning an NCAA championship is not easy. That should not be either.
I think if MSU goes that far, they'll enjoy their chance to play them. The Spartans could compete with them better than … oh, let's stop there. We are going too far.
Something that these Spartans have not done all season. That's part of what makes them so good.
"I hope we will not play against the poor team that did not have a seed of 1," Izzo said Wednesday, "which has not been respected."
He paused, then quickly answered his own question:
"We do not play this card at all. If (some) do not respect us, so much the better. And if they respect us, it's even better. "
Izzo can work with one or the other. He built his program on the old. He can also use the latter as a fuel. It does not matter to him.
Except in moments when he thinks at the highest level of the sport and the fact that he has not arrived yet. Not in his mind, anyway.
Although I suspect him, if he did it already, he would not believe it anyway. He would scream again on the moon.
Just not for long. Because there is a game to win. And there was a message to deliver. And there was a team that wanted to hear it.
"Even if we want to be a seed 1," said Tillman, "we will not let that spoil our spirit, mess up the way we practice, mess up the way we approach the game."
No they are not. They do not have the whole year.
Do not expect them to start now.
Contact Shawn Windsor at 313-222-6487 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.